Syria | Hope in the midst of despair.

“I was in the car with my dad and 3 siblings when they started shooting on us, my brother got 3 bullets, my young sister got one and my father got another. We had to remain in the car for 4 hours waiting for the shooting to stop; I watched my brother bleed out and couldn’t do anything. We thought we were going to lose him that day” Those are the words of Diala Jamaleddine, a 23-years old Syrian who had to flee her country 5 years ago after war started in Syria.

Diala is an artist, cross fit coach and a yoga instructor who has created a whole new life for herself here in Egypt despite all the obstacles she faced throughout her journey.
As a child Diala grew up in Homs, Syria, her parents got divorced when she was only 13 and since then she became in charge of everything at the household, from grocery shopping to cooking, cleaning and helping out with her sibling’s school work.
War started when she was in her final school year, there were many protests and bombings in Homs so she had to move in with her aunt in Damascus 2 months before exams in order to study in a better and safer environment. “When I went back to Homs for my exams, we would hear the sounds of bombings and explosions from our class rooms, other girls would start crying or faint while we were having our exams” says Diala.
Afterwards Diala moved back to Damascus for college, where she studied at the faculty of Fine Arts, in her second year of college war started in Damascus as well so she travelled to visit her sister who had moved to Egypt. While Diala’s visit things started falling apart in Damascus and it wasn’t safe for her to return, that was when her father told her she would have to stay in Egypt. Few months later her elder sister moved to Turkey and Diala was left all by her own in Egypt, a strange country where she knew no one and no one knew her. After 2 months of impossible and hectic paper work she was able to enroll in the faculty of Fine Arts here in Zamalek.

Ever since Diala was a child she played sports, she was a tennis champion who participated in many competitions so when she moved to Egypt she started playing for Al-Ahly club. After a while she was introduced to a group of young athletes who were starting a cross fit program in Heliopolis Sporting Club called “HIT” that was when Diala fell in love with Cross fit “I loved the training, it was different from the regular fitness I’ve been doing all my life, the people were so nice and I liked the whole community” says Diala. She started going regularly and eventually stopped her tennis training, and after a while they asked her to start working with them as a coach. Diala’s 10 years’ tennis experience made her suitable for the job, then a few months later she travelled to Thailand and got her very first certificate as a professional cross fit coach. From this point forward everything got serious, she started spending more time working on herself and reading about cross fit, she took ISSA course which is a fitness nutrition coaching course that helped her build nutrition plans for athletes.
Despite that Diala still felt like a complete stranger in this country “I always felt like a stranger even after I joined cross fit, after all my family wasn’t with me and that made me feel lonely, no one knew who I was and I felt that I have to work very hard to build a name for myself so that people would recognize me for who I truly am.”

But later things started getting better for her when she fell in love with her boss at HIT, Abdelrahman, who trusted her with most of the work and made her responsible for all the nutrition and weight loss programs “I found a family in Abdelrahman, his family became my family and that was what I needed the most in order to feel safe and find stability in my life here.”

But Diala’s achievements didn’t only stop here, she’s an ambitious young woman who is always looking for more, always searching for ways to improve herself and that was when yoga found its way in Diala’s life. “Stretches are a part of every athlete life, so I was always looking on the internet for new ways of stretching and that was when I stumbled into some yoga videos and it became my new obsession” says Diala. She looked for yoga programs and found one in Nepal which she immediately applied for and just like that, Diala spent a month in Nepal where she learned yoga and a lot more than that, “ It was like a dream come true” says Diala “I have never thought of doing something like this, and it was like healing after all that I’ve been through in my life, this month really changed me a lot,” and when she got back from Nepal, yoga was added as a new program in HIT. 

All of that was happening while Diala was still a college student, and when it was time for her graduation project she stopped everything for a complete month and gave this project all her time and effort. This project was her way of gaining back her self-confidence and proving to herself and others that she was capable of working and studying and being great at both. “In the end it came out just as I imagined and I was able to deliver the message I intended to through my work of art, many people knew about me after this project and I can say that I somehow built a name for myself in the art field” says Diala.

Diala is not only another victim of war; she is a fighter, an example of true dedication, commitment and hard work. It is people like her who give us hope and draw a ray of light in times of darkness. When Diala was asked what would she like to say to the young adults of our generation these were her words “You don’t have to feel happy every day in your life, life is hard and you have to work and strive in order to achieve what you want, in order to appreciate a weekend or a small vacation” says Diala “To all the young adults out there, work on yourself right now because you won’t find time when you grow up, if you want to take a course or play a sport do it now, squeeze in as many things as you can in your day, don’t let a day pass without learning a new thing. Time is literally money so don’t waste it. No one will help you improve yourself other than your own self.”

Written by: Farah Dalam


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